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Columbus teachers files notice of intent to strike and picket

empty school rooms with desks
MChe Lee

Columbus teachers have filed a notice that they intend to strike on August 22 if they don't reach a new contract agreement with Columbus City Schools.

The teacher's contract expires the same day, just two days before the new school year starts. The Columbus Education Association, which represents the teachers, said it will continue to work with the district on a new contract.

“CEA has consistently maintained that we are fighting not just for CEA members, but for our students and community. That is why CEA will continue that fight until a fair agreement is reached for the schools Columbus Students Deserve,” said CEA Spokesperson Regina Fuentes. “Our educators, students and the entire community deserve a fair contract for CEA.”

The two sides met for several hours on Wednesday along with a federal mediator but were unable to agree on a new contract.

Teachers' union officials said they presented a comprehensive proposal on all open non-economic issues and were disappointed the board did make a counterproposal.

School board president Jennifer Adair said in a statement that they have offered the union a fair and respectful offer and accused CEA of a "lack of good faith efforts."

"A strike is disruptive and hurts our students more than anyone else," Adair said. "The Board is determined to reach an agreement, and we will continue our preparations for opening day on August 24 in hope that our teachers will be in their classrooms with our students."

The district intends to start school on August 24 even if the teachers go on strike. The alternative opening plans include remote learning with substitute teachers as instructors.

The union voted on August 4 on their intent to issue a strike notice. That followed several days of public sparing with the school board, including the union criticizing the board for what the board called its final contract offer, and the board filing an unfair labor complaint with the state's Employment Relations Board.

Board members claim the union has spread misinformation about the contract offer as it pertains to class size, recruiting and retaining employees, and the condition of some buildings' HVAC systems. The union denies ever spreading misinformation.